Archives for posts with tag: sewing

Most of our house is furnished with junk we found on the street or in thrift stores for dirt cheap, and typically not in a chic mid-century vintage way, but a utilitarian/hoarder/dumpsters-behind-the-dorms way. If I ever manage to become an aspirational lifestyle blogger for home dec craft stuff, it will only be via generous application of bokeh-laden closeups and aggressive spot cleaning.

One of our prize finds became a victim of another prize find this weekend. Temperatures in Madison are climbing, so we decided it was time to drag the window AC units up from the basement and install them in our windows. We live in a decrepit house that’s about 100 years old, so it has poor insulation and no central air conditioning, although there are at least central ceiling fans and a garbage disposal–both godsends.

One of the monstrously heavy window AC units ($5 at St. Vincent de Paul) had a few sharp screws protruding from the bottom, which we didn’t notice until we had heaved it up on top of the super-comfy overstuffed chambray armchair by the window (free, found on the sidewalk) and torn multiple holes into the upholstery while wedging the air conditioner into the window. Funny, I always thought the chair would fall victim to the cat, not the air conditioner.

After an unsightly attempt to darn the holes closed with a needle and thread, I went stash diving to see if I had anything suitable to cover the chair up instead. This was the result:

This is Tula Pink Full Moon Forest damask quilting cotton, a fabric collection I adored that featured cleverly hidden animals in larger decorative patterns–squirrels, fish, rabbits, owls. Here’s a strangely washed-out detail shot where you can see the bunnies in the damask pattern:

I didn’t have enough fabric or time to cover the entire chair, and this is actually a no-sew job. I just draped the fabric over the back, pinned it into place with straight pins since the chair lives against the wall and the back isn’t visible, tucked the fabric into the spot between back and cushion, then pulled it tight around the cushion and pinned it underneath the cushion as well. While it’s not really what I would call “attractive,” it looks better than I expected (certainly better than the patched-up holes), and I’m happy the fabric is seeing the light of day for the first time in years, and actual use for the first time ever. (Love the pattern, but not so much the color for clothing.)

I’m sort of considering getting enough fabric (home dec stuff, not quilting cotton) to try and to reupholster the whole thing the right way.

The color and shape now put me in mind of Chairy, from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

On the subject of shortcuts and tricks, here are a couple of clever sewing tricks I came across in the last week or so that I thought were worth sharing:

–Colette, in one of her apparently few quotable quotes not involving cats

I got my copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook the other day and it’s LOOOOOOVE. What a gorgeous book. One of my first sewing books was Built By Wendy’s Sew U, and I learned a lot from it, but this book, while somewhat similar in general contents and approach, is about a thousand times better suited to me in both the aesthetic and the sloper measurements. (I haven’t made a garment from either book yet, so I can’t speak to actual fit!)

I’ve been idly checking in on the posts on Colette Patterns’ blog every so often, and decided at some point that I’d add this book to my next Amazon order, but I hadn’t looked through it all until the book actually arrived in the mail. It includes five patterns, all very pretty and very, very girly.

I found the Pastille Dress on the cover somewhat uninspiring–the cover photo is possibly the worst one in the book. The dress is fitted very closely, but somehow between the cut and the color, the model just looks like she’s wearing a fleshy Spanx tube rather than a dress. This version is way cuter–check out the belted, cardi’d picture down at the bottom of the post. I like the knife pleats across the hem of the skirt, but I’m wary of the cut-on sleeves–seems like it could be very difficult to get the fit right.

This blog post covers the Taffy blouse and Meringue skirt. I’d totally make and wear the scallop-hemmed Meringue skirt. The Taffy blouse, on the other hand, is probably the pattern in here I’d be least likely to make–it’s lovely on the model, but those sleeves are really pretty enormous if you look at them, so it would probably be better in theory than practice, unless you have a very narrow torso or are really proud of your shoulders and just want to show them off to everyone.

This post has pictures of the Truffle and Licorice dresses. TO DIE FOR. Truffle is a simple sleeveless A-line with a gorgeous front drape across the skirt, and Licorice has a big draped collar and big, poofy elbow-length sleeves. (Eat your heart out, Anne Shirley!)

I have been surfing around to find finished versions of these, and unfortunately haven’t found a ton, but here are a couple of cute versions:

Truffle in black brocade
Licorice with sassy belt
Licorice, described as “the dress that almost broke me”

The measurements for these patterns are interesting. To compare with some other pattern companies and ready-to-wear: I normally wear a size 6 or 8 in RTW. Going just by bust-waist-hip, I’m close to a Burda size 40 across the board,  just a little smaller in the bust depending on whether I’m inhaling or not. Looking at the measurements for Vogue patterns, my waist is a little bigger and my bust a little smaller than the size 14, but again, pretty close measurements across the board. According to the Colette measurement chart, though, I’m probably a size 4 by bust, size 6 by waist, and size… uh… smaller than a size ZERO by hip measurement. Since none of these patterns are very fitted in the hips, I won’t worry about it too much, but it’s interesting to see such a huge variation from the Burda and the Big Three slopers. I’ve read that Colette patterns are drafted for a C-cup bust, so I’m guessing the size 6 is going to be closer to the right size for my frame–I’ll probably start from there and see if it works out.

The real draw for me was the patterns, but the book has a lot of other good info, including making a personalized croquis, assessing fit (how to read all the random wrinkles your muslin makes across your body when it doesn’t fit!), making bias tape, and how to do a number of standard adjustments like full or small bust adjustments, sway back, or adjusting for small or large waists. It also covers a lot of the basic information about sewing, like grain lines, pattern layouts, fabric types, and finishing seams–I have a lot of other books with this info, so I skimmed over it, but it looks like a solid summary. Since a single Colette dress pattern goes for $18 by itself, this book is a bargain at $18.99 on Amazon even if you only like one of the patterns, and a positive steal if you like more than one pattern or would find the sewing information useful.

Next step: stop talking about/accumulating Colette patterns, start making more of them. I think I’ll start with either the Meringue skirt or the Truffle dress.

Yo! I can’t believe it’s been more than 2 months since I posted anything here. But I’m alive and well. I’ve just been traveling a lot (was gone two weeks in May, and pretty much the entire month of June… will hopefully find some time to blog about that later).

I tried to get back into the crafting groove this weekend by sewing myself a new dress, one I’ve had in the queue for a long time. I always totally covet Wikstenmade’s clothes (though probably more because of the ethereally beautiful photography than any particularly strong fit with my own personal style) and she posted this cutout sleeve ikat top a while ago that set me foolishly yearning for a “cold shoulder” garment. (Side note: I found this other cutout sleeve dress just now… does it not totally scream “My biological clock is ticking!” in the voice of Marisa Tomei?)

Here it is: I’m calling it That 70’s Dress mainly for the shag-carpet-tastic orange hue, but these belted sack dresses were big in the days of disco too, weren’t they? Please excuse the wrinkled fabric across the skirt in all these photos–I had sat in chairs in this dress all day and didn’t feel like taking it off to iron it.

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Pattern: Simplicity 2406, a Cynthia Rowley pattern (see here for original), view B (knee-length, cutout shoulders, open back)

Size: a straight 12, although I probably should have tapered it out to 14 for the hips–it’s more snug in the hips than I would like when I sit down. I have to hike it up pretty high to get on my bike, there’s not a lot of ease.

Fabric used: Orange cotton/poly shirting blend–very thin fabric. I would recommend using a very fine, drapey fabric; even though this one was pretty lightweight, the sleeves still wound up very stiff because of all the facing seams.

I had a few close calls while sewing because I only barely had enough yardage. I thought I had more than enough, but forgot I would have to cut out not 2 but 4 copies of the sleeves, one pair for the sleeve and also one pair for the facings; also, I accidentally set my iron too hot at first, so I melted the interfacing and a few corners of the sleeve facings. I can’t remember how much of this fabric I had to start with, unfortunately, so I can’t tell you how accurate the pattern’s yardage requirements are.

Pattern notes/mods:

I sewed this without any closures and omitted the back slit so I could wear a bra (and sew fewer seams)–I didn’t alter the back at all, just cut it on the fold and did not cut out the back slit facing piece. I can slip it on over my head. I forgot to cut the back neck facing on the fold, so I just finished the vertical edges with a zigzag and tacked it down in two pieces. This would have definitely wound up too tight for comfort in the hips if I had added the back seam or slit as instructed, since I essentially added 1 1/4″ additional ease by cutting the back on the fold without modifying the pattern.

I think I also hemmed it a little less than the pattern calls for, but I didn’t measure exactly, just did it by eye.
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The instructions were a little puzzling. I didn’t understand the directions for the pockets, and didn’t have the patience to figure them out, so I just ignored them and put in in-seam pockets the normal way (sew them to the dress front and back, side seam goes around the pocket edges). I also thought at first that I was following the confusing sleeve directions pretty well, but once I set in the sleeves, I realized that I had wound up with sleeves with a neatly finished slit-like opening at the bottom instead of the normal tube-shaped sleeves.

If you sew this, note that you’ll probably need a loop turner to turn the sleeves inside out after the first set of facing seams; you have to get a lot of fabric through a very, very tight space.

Also, note that the front gathers are between the dots, in the middle of the dress, while the back gathers are OUTSIDE the dots, in the shoulder area. I accidentally sewed the gathering stitches in the middle of the back at first and couldn’t figure out how my pieces were supposed to fit together.

The sleeve sizing seems pretty generous; they’re loose on me, and I have pretty meaty shoulders and biceps. I think women with thin arms would probably want to take the sleeves in a bit. Also, the sleeves are quite stiff because there are a lot of seams in not a lot of space–the pattern photo shows this but I was still a little surprised at how much the sleeves stuck out from the body of the dress.
side

The sash is a little short for my taste. It’s long enough to wrap around once and tie in a short bow, or to wrap in a double loop and tie in a double knot, as shown in my photos. If I were making this again, I might want a longer sash so I could tie a more lavish bow.

Verdict: I like it! Cool. Comfy. Orange. I might consider sewing this again in a different fabric, maybe a different view, like View C with the 3/4 length balloon sleeves.

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P.S. I know you can’t really see it in the photos, but I love all the jewelry I’m wearing. Gold necklace made from a real oak leaf, a hand-me-down from my mom; gold ring set with a teardrop-shaped, cloudy chartreuse prehnite; Monarch butterfly wing earrings. I got the ring cheap with a Heartsy voucher–do you know about Heartsy? It’s like Groupon but for handmade items from stores like Etsy and Artfire.

My friends Kelly and Josh are having a baby soon and I made them a couple of tiny kimonos as a present!

Kimono #1:

Kimono #2 (please excuse the awful photography):

Pattern: Lucy’s Kimono, from Heather Ross‘s Weekend Sewing

Fabric used: Kimono #1: anonymous pale blue quilting cotton with black swallows; black store-bought bias binding. Kimono #2: all Amy Butler, all the time–the main fabric is Full Moon Polka Dot in yellow, and the bias binding is homemade, from a fat quarter of Acanthus purchased at Purl Soho, so between the designer quilting fabric and the crazy markup at Purl, this basically means it is the most expensive cotton bias binding ever. (By the way, I love Amy Butler but what on earth is this Photoshop disaster going on on the splash page? And why does it take 5 minutes to load the fabrics list for each collection?)

Pattern notes: Heather Ross suggests in the pattern intro that this is one of the easiest patterns in the book, which I think is not really true. It’s small, which is nice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a lot; the pajama pants from this book were much larger but also much easier to sew.

I found it pretty difficult to sew the bias tape around the curve of the neck because the front meets the back at a very acute angle that the bias tape has to be eased around. I couldn’t catch the second side of the bias tape consistently on kimono #1 when I was machine-sewing, so I ended up hand-sewing the bias tape in place to finish it.

I didn’t think the pattern pieces were clearly marked (I may have traced them off wrong, admittedly, but I don’t think there were any notches and the pieces are big blocky shapes, so you could conceivably sew them wrong by 90 degrees). The back and sleeves seem to be gentle trapezoids; I assume the wide end of the back-trapezoid goes towards the bottom end of the baby, and the wide ends of the sleeve-trapezoids get attached to the body of the kimono.

I didn’t use the super-narrow bias tape called for in the pattern; I think mine was 1/2 inch. It seems incredibly fiddly to work with the suggested 1/4″ bias binding for this pattern, and my version doesn’t look terribly different from the one in the book, so I’m not totally sure she used 1/4″ bias tape in the sample, either.

There are errors in the pattern–for instance, it calls for 1/2 yard of bias tape, but I think you actually need 1 1/2 yards; it says to sew the shoulder seams with wrong sides together, which is wrong, of course–they should be sewn right side together, unless you’re going for an edgy deconstructed look for your baby garment.

The book is pretty unclear about how the ties should be handled. As any woman who has worn a wrap dress knows, both sides of the wrap cannot be treated identically, because one side ends up on the inside of the dress and one side ends up on the outside. You are instructed here to “make sure the ties themselves… extend on the right side of the Kimono Front and Back in your sewing set-up” but I don’t know what that means for the side inside the wrap. I figured that there were basically three alternatives here:

  1. Don’t do anything with the inside part of the wrap (I didn’t think this was right because the book instructs you to make two ties.)
  2. Sew the 2nd tie to the inside of the wrap and tie one bow inside the kimono and one bow outside the kimono. This might be what was intended, since the photo in the book doesn’t show two sets of ties visible on the outside of the kimono. However, this seemed both annoying for the parent dressing the baby to fasten and annoying for the baby to wear–how would you like to have a bow tied on the inside of your shirt? Probably not a whole lot.
  3. Leave a hole for the second tie to go through so both ends can be tied on the outside. This is what I ended up doing, taking a cue from every wrap dress I’ve ever owned.

I did this by basically just leaving about an inch and a half of the side seam unsewn and stitching the tie onto the seam allowance on one side rather than catching it inside the seam like on the other side. Here’s a view of the inside of the kimono: you can see the hole with one tie passing through it, and the second tie sewn to the seam allowance: these two ties are tied in a bow on the outside of the kimono.

Here’s a view of the outside of the kimono, with the one tie extending through the hole:

As you can see, the seams inside the kimono are pinked. I think it should be pretty easy to do French seams instead, since most of the seams are straight and very short, but the fabric I picked was sturdy enough that I figured pinking would hold up fine.

Lots of corners on the inside of this sucker. I accidentally pressed and sewed down the seams down kind of randomly because I wasn’t always keeping future seam dependencies in mind. Some are pressed open, some are pressed to one side. The book probably instructs you on what to do, but at a certain point I gave up on following the instructions in any kind of detail.

If you decide to make this kimono and make your own bias tape, I strongly recommend a Clover bias tape maker. You will be one cranky cowboy if you try to make bias tape with one of the crappy metal ones instead. Also, Yahaira has posted an excellent tutorial for making continuous bias tape–including a link to the conversions for how much fabric turns into how much finished bias tape.

A mother at the baby shower said “I like the kimono style because if ‘things happen,’ this can be taken off without having to pull it over the baby’s head”–a practicality that hadn’t even occurred to me, naive as I am in the ways of baby-vom, but seems very sensible.

Oh, and I got them this, too:

Why, yes! That is a Captain Kirk onesie from thinkgeek.com. A necessity for any well-dressed baby. (By the way, Josh and Kelly, if you’re still working on narrowing down names, check out this book. I think Cthulhu is a beautiful name for a little girl. Or Zaius, if it’s a boy.)

Back in January, there was a guest post on Flintknits about fabric designer Heather Ross and race and ethnicity in her fabric designs. I’ve been following the discussion with some interest, but was too busy during January to write anything about it, and by the time my schedule freed up a bit, I felt like I had kind of missed the boat on a timely response.

Pamela Wynne just posted a followup to that earlier post and I figured I would take the opportunity to bring these posts to your attention, because I find them really interesting. Even more than the posts, the comments! Go check them out. We’ve got the crazy racists, the indignant Heather, the “me toos” and oh, also the engaged and insightful dialogue about the issue.

You know, I feel kind of bad about posting this, for a couple of reasons: first of all, I respect Pam and enjoy reading her blog, and used to enjoy reading Ashley’s blog when it was still around, and I feel like this was all done with the best of intentions but that I’m about to say some bad stuff about their actions; and secondly, as a good Berkeley-raised-and-educated liberal person of color (and, incidentally, daughter of an ethnic studies professor), it’s clear to me how I think I’m supposed to feel about the issue. But I really don’t feel that way. At the risk of being the next hapless victim of the PC crafting police, here’s my take on it.

I frankly think the first post was a shameful and shallow dogpile. Heather Ross was arbitrarily picked out as a figure to crucify in the name of racial inclusiveness. Her designs clearly weren’t created with the intention of being hateful or exclusive, and come on, it’s not like she was drawing kids doing Confederate Civil War reenactments or something, they’re just some little girls playing with horses, and they just happen to all be white and blonde. Someone essentially swooped in out of nowhere, told her she should put more non-white kids in her designs, and then, when she declined, because she doesn’t need to do every single thing that consumers ask her to do, declared her to have “fucked up, in kind of epic ways,” posted her response, and tore her a new one.

Yes, maybe she was being a little stubborn in not wanting to take the various requests for diversity to heart. However, Heather Ross has a perfect right to draw anything she wants to. There’s no rule or law that says she has to be inclusive and racially diverse in her designs. If she had responded to the emails/comments with “oh sure, that’s a great idea, maybe I’ll put some black kids in my next design, it just never occurred to me and I think it would be fun” or something, bully for her. But that’s not what she wanted to do, so if she just stuck some ethnic children in her next fabric design purely to cave in to pressure, we’d just have some whimsical and adorable tokenism going on, some diversity-as-economic-commodity. (Maybe she could use the magic of Photoshop!) That’s not right.

What’s more, I think this is a crazy tempest in a teapot. Her fabric represents just a tiny corner of the fabric world, which represents just a tiny corner of the world of commercially available representational art. I’m sure there are plenty of racially inclusive quilting fabrics out there, if not via your local Jo-Ann fabrics, then through the Magic of teh Internets, and if not, with the rise of Spoonflower and other print-on-demand fabric outfits, it’s easier than ever to make whatever fabrics you want. (No longer am I beholden to the clumsy medium of potato stamps to depict my idyllic Asian-American childhood activities: Kumon math sets, Chinese summer camp, and making won ton! Rejoice, rejoice.) Complainers, you are artsy, crafty people. I know this because you are focused on buying fabric yardage. Go make some fabrics that look like what you want and maybe make a bunch of money doing it.

Plus, there are more important venues where these efforts can be focused. I know crafting is all near and dear to the heart, but these are quilting fabrics probably intended for mentally and emotionally robust grown-ups to purchase and use; perhaps it would be more constructive to focus on the dolls and items intended directly for impressionable children. Or at least to aim all this guilty rage towards a larger corporate target with a more diffuse market rather than one independent fabric designer. This is not to say it’s not an important topic, but I just think this whole Heather Ross-specific anger is kind of misguided and misdirected.

Kristen wrote a poignant response where she discusses her children’s excitement at finding dolls that looked like them. I grew up with these same feelings of underrepresentation (probably this has changed a bit with the rise of anime and manga?) I probably never thought about quilting fabrics or even pajamas or t-shirts or whatever, but one thing I remember always feeling sad about was the Pleasant Company’s American Girl dolls. Oh man, did I ever want one of these. They are such a crazy expensive scam (at the time, back in the late 80s/early 90s, it was, I think, $80 for a vinyl doll plus one outfit?), but they construct such appealing narratives around them, and all the paraphrenalia and stories made me insane with covetousness. But they never had any dolls that looked like me, and I always wished they did. I’ve written them letters over the years asking them to include an Asian doll, always with some polite response about my request being taken into account, but being subject to long market research and development timelines.

When I was a kid, the Pleasant Company’s approach to diversity was “we have a blonde white doll, a brunette white doll, and a brunette white doll with glasses”: they slowly started expanding their repertoire with a redheaded white doll, and then, slowly slowly (and I don’t remember the order in which these came, but I know they were all before the Asian-American doll), a black doll, a Mexican-American doll, a Native American doll, along with various other white dolls. Finally, although she’s just a sidekick, they introduced Ivy (from the 70s? It’s nearly time for my childhood’s decade to become “history”–good God!). Finally. I guess my point is that toys like this might be a better place to focus your requests and petitions. Heather Ross’s products are all essentially based around the brand of her individuality and personal style. Crap like the American Girl dolls is designed by committee and based on market demand, and I think has a greater impact on children’s psyches.

Don’t think I don’t notice all-white media or consumer product representations, I live in Wisconsin, for Christ’s sake, it happens all the time. For instance, check out the selection of neighborhood regulars at the Midtown Pub in nearby Middleton! Yeah, it’s pretty important, and it enters my mind all the time, and it kind of sucks that in those “what celebrity do you look like” games there are really not a whole lot of Asian females to choose from. But it’s just not the be-all and end-all, and I am not a helpless, spineless, media-absorbing jellyfish unable to stop my mind from absorbing all non-inclusive imagery and waving my sad tentacles going “noooo, it huuuuurts.” I looked at the cover of the menu and noticed this and found it a little funny and maybe a little sad, and then I opened the menu and ordered a hamburger and a beer and did not feel bad about myself or my place in the world. I could get upset, but I think the menu probably accurately reflects the reality around them–like Heather Ross’s point that her fabric was autobiographical and an accurate representation of a few faces she saw in her childhood–and I’d rather save the lion’s share of my emotional engagement for overt racism.

And I don’t deny that DIY culture and the online crafting blogosphere slant very heavily white. This commenter does a great job of articulating many of the things I see as problems with the racial issues in this subculture, so I’ll just point you over to him. (“The Feudal White Craftopia” is such a great description.) By being out here and saying my stuff and taking pictures of little yellow old me, I guess I’m probably doing my small part in helping diversify knitting blogs, but only racially: I mean, socioeconomically, I still come from a position of computer-literate, college-educated, middle-class privilege, like, I think, most of the craft bloggers out there. There’s diversity and there’s diversity.

P.S. Fun fact, did you know I started the pinny porn discussion that eventually led to the creation of BID on Ravelry? Ha ha!

P.P.S. Jesus, it’s 3:30 AM? Spring Forward, I hate you.

Edited to add: I did a bit more research and found a couple of other response posts I’d missed earlier:

Marirob

Cauchy

My parents (Dad and stepmom) came to visit me in Madison! Now they’re in Chicago (or possibly on their way back to CA by now). I miss them! It was kind of a whirlwind, last-minute, chaotic kind of trip, but we managed to fit in a good trip to the St. Vincent de Paul Dig ‘n’ Save, where you buy clothes for $1.00 a pound and junk for 35 cents a pound. Rahul and I had a great trip there before where I came away with a ton of good stuff–among other things, a really cute boiled wool rust-and-green colorwork jacket, a Brooks Brothers seersucker skirt, an adorable Vera Bradley zippered pouch with tiny owls on it.

This time around I found a trove of cute patterns from the 70s and 80s, including this one, Simplicity 4867–how awesome is the top right view? It reminds me very much of wikstenmade’s beautiful Tova top (right down to the similarity of the model’s hairstyle to Jenny’s!) Also Butterick 4631, a collection of yoked peasant tops with pockets. This one, Simplicity 5497, is very, very dated, but the asymmetrical ruffled button front seems like it might have potential. I couldn’t find the last one online (McCall’s 4866), but it includes a very cute dress and blouse with mandarin collar and round pintucked, button-up yoke.

I also got a brown leather Fossil/Relic purse in pretty good condition, and a blouse that turned out to be a little too small. The purse + shirt + 4 patterns cost me $1.35!

Anyway, although my parents have left, I have plenty of stuff coming up this next week to distract me. Mary and I are going to teach her Hindi teacher’s kid to spin Saturday morning (she’s 8 years old and wants to learn to spin cotton on a charkha! and weave! just like Grandma!) and then Rahul and I are seeing the Magnetic Fields on Saturday night. My uncle will be in town next week, as will an old friend from Berkeley, though both are here for conferences and I don’t know how much time they’ll have to spend on social events. Monday night is also the next meeting of the Madison Knitters’ Guild and Vivian Høxbro is coming to speak; I think I might go and see her.

Other crap: I’ve finished the back and one front of Flicca. Still no pictures, though.

This fake A-Ha video made my day: Band montage!

In response to my blog post mentioning that I’d heard Jelly Yarns make good drive bands for spinning wheels, I got a free sample to try out. Isn’t that nice of them? I’m looking forward to giving it a spin.

And my parents said they kept wondering when I was going to post something about the election. Well, there are other venues that do the ranting better (how could I even scratch the surface of this whole Sarah Palin debacle?) so for the most part I leave the political talk out of here, but I did want to share this story that I saw for the first time recently: McCain calls his captors “gooks” and refuses to apologize. (On the topic of Vietnam PTSD, did you know he also addressed a crowd recently as “my fellow prisoners” rather than “my fellow citizens,” and didn’t seem to notice the slip-up?)

Guy Aoki, the president of the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans, sums it up pretty well, I think: “If Sen. McCain had been captured by Nigerians, could he call those people ‘niggers’ and think he wasn’t going to offend everyone who is black?”

Here’s the last new dress finished before going on vacation. It’s super comfy, if not especially flattering (the fabric reminds me, now that the dress is finished, of pajamas).



It’s a nod to my favorite Magritte painting, The Empire of Light/L’empire des lumières–dark clouds below, blue sky above, business in the front, party in the back. I might make a bird applique out of the remaining sunny sky fabric, and make it a La grande famille dress.

Pattern: Titus Summer Blouse. I’ve sewed this twice before–once in orange cotton, and once in an adorable Japanese bunny print (I keep forgetting to blog this one). A nice, simple pattern.

Fabric: Bears Just Wanna Have Fun, minus the bears… 1 yard of dark sky, .25 yards of sunny sky; .25 yards of some random white cotton fabric to line the yoke

Mods:

  • Cut the outer edges of the yoke about 1/2 wider because I didn’t have enough fabric for sleeves.
  • Lined the yoke with contrast material because I ran out of the sunny sky fabric.
  • Instead of cutting the bodice pieces as shown in the pattern, I sewed the entire yard of dark sky fabric into a tube, laid it flat with the seam at the back, then used the corner of the pattern to cut out armholes on either side. I gathered it to the width of the new yoke and sewed them together, then hemmed to the appropriate length with a double-fold hem.
  • Since I left the sleeves off, I turned the outer edges of the yoke to the inside about 1/4 inch, pressed them, and topstitched them together, sandwiching the raw edges inside the yoke. For the underarm parts of the armholes, I just turned the fabric under and stitched it in place–didn’t clip the curves or anything.
  • I gave it an empire (ha ha) waist by cutting the elastic Hanes Her way waistband out of some disintegrating underwear, pinning it to the inside of the tube, under the bustline (stretching the elastic out to the width of the fabric as I pinned) and then sewing 3 lines of stitches to secure it in place. I stretched the elastic out as I went and removed the pins one by one as I came to them to keep everything in the right place. I didn’t put enough pins in the first time, actually, so I had to do this twice after winding up with almost no gathers on one side and a giant avant-garde mass of drooping gathered cloth on the other.

Rahul’s verdict on this dress: “it looks like felt.”

I am almost comically tired and stressed out from work and wedding/trip prep: I’m attending two weddings in the next week, I don’t know if I mentioned that, but the first one is in Toledo this Saturday, and I will be driven to the Indianapolis airport on the way back from that wedding so I can catch my flight to California for the second one, the one in which I will be a bridesmaid. This afternoon, while I was in the midst of my work day and feeling very busy indeed, we discovered that I thought we were leaving on Friday morning, and Rahul thought we were leaving on Thursday morning, and his parents were coming to pick us up for this wedding a day earlier than I had planned.

So I had to take an additional day off work, which I really hadn’t wanted to do, and then the rush project I spent my weekend slaving over suddenly blew up and became a mild disaster around 4 PM. So I spent the next 6 hours or so downloading new files, proofreading, copy-pasting, generally trying not to have a nervous breakdown. Gah. Rahul got me out of the house around 10 PM and because the comedy show we were trying to go to was sold out, we ended up having a relaxing white trash trip to White Castle, Wal-Mart, and the gas station, and the surprising thing is it actually seemed to help me unwind. I think that must say loads about how shitty my day was up until that point. I got a new pair of pantyhose (no runs!) and these patterns, in anticipation of more relaxing days: Simplicity/Built By Wendy 3835 and Simplicity 4077 (the latter totally inspired by Flintknits’s awesome series of Simplicity 4077 blouses). Say what you will about Wal-Mart, patterns are cheap there.

Aside from eating gluey burgers and wandering the aisles of the Megalomart, the good things from today are:

1) Purlescence is now carrying my patterns! And Robynn is going to be putting them together with yarns into luxe little kits. Her yarns are all delectable, so I’m really excited to see which yarns she ends up pairing with which patterns.

2) I got my order in from Knitpicks. (Um, my first order. Simply Shetland 4 came back in stock, and since it’s kind of hard to find it on Amazon, where I buy most of my books with my credit card rewards gift certificates, I decided to go ahead and get it since it’s 40% off, and I am dying to make Autumn Rose at some point. Wow, that was a long sentence. Although I sold two books this week, they have immediately been replaced with two more. Net destash: 0.)

In today’s package, I got some Options needles, yay!–so I’ve transferred my Loquat Shawl to a needle that’s actually long enough that I can stretch it out to see its real size–just about 40 inches wingspan at the moment. (Should I be panicking yet? I have enough time, technically, to finish it before the wedding, since I have approximately 8 hours of airplane time, 15 hours of time in the car, and an unspecified, hellish number of hours in the airport between now and then, without even counting days once I get to California, before the wedding… but it will also need to be blocked before Sarah can wear it.) I also got New Pathways for Sock Knitters, which looks fascinating even though I don’t really knit socks (yet). I figured it would be a book with lasting value. Perhaps I’ll take it along with a skein or two of sock yarn as vacation knitting, and make a pair of socks once I’m done with the shawl. I’ve made a lot of sweaters over the course of my knitting life, but only one and a half socks (1.5 socks, not 1.5 pairs). And four pairs of felted slippers, which should count for something.

3) I’m going to knit a row of the shawl and then go to bed and read Fitcher’s Brides for a while. I hope I can finish it before I have to return it to the library.

Bolstered by the success of my first Infinity Dress, I have gone on a huge sewing and fabric-buying rampage lately. (Apologies in advance for the quality of the photos in this post. They almost all came out very bright and overexposed. Just pretend it’s a halo of heavenly light and I am about to ascend into a hovering spacecraft, and you are an exclusive witness to this special moment.)

First, Rahul and I biked out to Wal-Mart the other day–a harrowing 4.5 mile ride along narrow, busy roads, on the west side of town, across a freeway. My bike nearly fell in a ditch and when I corrected to stay out of it, I nearly got hit by a truck. It was scary. But my reward was 4 yards of 1×1 ribbed black knit fabric for only $1 a yard. I went home and made another Infinity Dress, and then made a drape neck top with the leftovers. Because my fabric was only 45 inches wide, I made a gathered skirt instead of a circle skirt, so this one has a slimmer silhouette.

I also accidentally sewed the band on top of the straps instead of underneath, but I think it’s still OK.

Here’s the drape neck top. It is sewn together rather poorly. The rib knit was much stretchier than the jersey, so I ended up with a lot of lettuce edges where there shouldn’t have been any. The pattern is Simplicity New Look 6470, View B.

Here’s the new dress.

“Oh my god, that looks SO WEIRD,” said Rahul this morning, as I was going out to water my basil plants on the balcony, and took this picture of the back of the dress to demonstrate how weird it was that my dress had no back. I thought it looked fine, but the sleeves fell off when I was bent over my plants, so I retied it to cross over in the back.



Because the skirt has a pretty slim silhouette, I just wore it underneath my next two FOs instead of changing into a new top.

These are both made with quilting cotton I bought a while back at Shiisa Quilts, from their $4.99 bed sale.

This one is made with a dark purple fabric printed with white dragonflies. I made it into a circle skirt with ties and a zipper at the waist. Because I only had about a yard of 45″ fabric, it came out shorter than I would have liked and the overall silhouette is a little bit 80’s. A learning experience. I should have stuck with a plain A-line wrap skirt like I had originally planned.

This one I’m very proud of. The fabric is a Rowan/Westminster Martha Negley cotton, dark red, striped with tree trunks. I drafted my own pattern according to the A-line skirt, fitted waist directions in Sew What! Skirts, an excellent book for the beginning skirt-sewer like myself–highly recommended. I went on to cut the pieces on the bias to make chevron stripes, put in side pockets (these need some work–for some reason, I cut them so the pockets don’t really dip down, just go straight in, so I can’t put anything in them, though I can use them to warm my hands) and installed what I think is an invisible zipper in the back. I just need to put in some snaps to secure the waistband.


After all that, I went to Jo-Ann and back to Shiisa Quilts, where they’ve dropped the price of the bed sale fabrics to $3.99 a yard and are having a buy one yard, get one yard free offer through today, so I scored a bunch of nice fabric for just $2 a yard.

Here’s some of what I got:

Cloud fabric (not on sale, but I loved it. This is Moda fabric, named, puzzlingly, “Bears just wanna have fun”)

Gray fabric with chartreuse hydrangeas, Kaffe Fassett Lille Arbour. I loved this fabric last time I was in the store, but Rahul prevented me from buying it with his protestations of how hideous it was. So I went back without him and bought several yards of it for half price. I think I might make the Anna Dress with it.

Some other stuff: from Shiisa, some blue Rowan Martha Negley fabric with green plums, some blue striped fabric, the aforementioned Kaffe Fassett fabric, and blue fabric with delicate geometric traceries–this is Free Spirit Mendhi Lotus, and is much drapier and silkier than the other fabrics. I haven’t decided what to do with any of this yet, though the default is “knee-length skirt.”

The linen print with brown embroidered flowers is from Jo-Ann (was also on sale) and is destined for another simple A-line skirt.

This is my new favorite summer dress. It was so fast and easy it hardly counts as an FO, since it’s essentially putting together a kit. I saw the fabric on sale at Jo-Ann and bought it on impulse: they sell a big roll of cotton gauze pre-smocked with elastic thread, and you just buy a piece a couple of inches larger than your bust size, sew a tube, add straps as desired, and hem it. I made nice wide straps to cover up bra straps and this dress fits perfectly, aside from the fact that I didn’t pre-shrink my fabric so I ended up with a dress an inch or two shorter than what I had wanted.

Edited to add, since I had some comments about this: if you’re in the US and don’t have a Jo-Ann Fabrics nearby, it looks like you can get pre-smocked fabric online via Hancock Fabrics. I couldn’t find this specific fabric on the Jo-Ann website, but when I was in the store they also had the same stuff in pink and green, and some tropical Hawaiian-looking smocked fabrics.

I also have some brown jersey (not shown) for yet another Infinity Dress and another try at that drape-neck top. All I can say is that it’s a good thing sewing is so much faster than knitting.

Speaking of which, here is the current progress on the Loquat Shawl:


Apparently, as maid of honor, I’m going to have to make a toast at this wedding, which fills me with a deep sense of terror and anxiety (I would rather eat bugs than do any kind of public speaking). If only they were traditionalists and left all the public speaking to the best man and all the fussy lady’s maid duties to the maid of honor. I’m sure I can carry bobby pins and straighten hairdos like nobody’s business.

I must soothe myself with admiring my newest yarn acquisition, the first shipment of the Sundara Seasons club, June 2008, the Autumn season. This is Sundara Sock yarn in Arabian Nights, a rich, warm brown shot through with henna highlights. Isn’t it gorgeous? I have a pattern idea in my head for this already, but can’t start anything new till I’m done with the shawl.

And a knitter’s PSA: Knit Picks is having their annual 40% off book sale, and they’ve just posted a bunch of new yarns for sale: delicious-looking semi-solid kettle dyes, new colors of many yarns, Imagination hand-painted sock yarn, Swish Bulky superwash, and more.

Graduation came and went; the keynote speaker was Steve Bellamy, we met various parents and had a buffet lunch, and it was all strangely anticlimactic.

We spent the weekend at parties and lakeside picnics and dumpster diving–that last a particularly depressing lesson in the American Way, as we stared into a dumpster outside a frat house full of lovely solid wood furniture, smashed into pieces and wasted just for the hell of it. Rahul got some scrap wood for arts and crafts projects, and I salvaged a large jug of laundry detergent and almost an entire case of Cup O’ Noodles, the cardboard sleeves damp from the rain or other unspecified dumpster grossness, but the noodles still sealed tight and clean in their styrofoam cups and plastic wrap.

I got a bit of sewing done–no pictures yet, but I do have a lovely new top made of a Japanese bunny print cotton, with little pearly buttons on the yoke, and 4 yards of fabric from the new quilt store in town, Shiisa Quilts. The store is small but welcoming, with a wide selection of pretty, pretty fabrics. Amy Butler, Kaffe Fassett, various other bright, super-modern prints that made Rahul cringe (he strongly prefers the subtle 1800’s-style florals and calicos).

They have a whole section of really nice clearance fabrics, all $4 a yard–I have 2 yards of a Martha Negley Rowan/Westminster print, burgundy striped with tree trunks, and 2 yards of an eggplant and white Japanese print of dragonflies. Both were intended for skirts, but I saw this tutorial for a smocked dress and just might try it. There’s this one, too, using elastic thread on the bobbin. I am not sure this will be a particularly flattering look on me, but it seems like a nice, easy way to make a comfy summer sundress.

On the same theme, here are some photos of the quilt exhibit I went to recently at the Monroe County History Museum. The theme was the juxtaposition of stained glass and quilting (stained glass quilts and cathedral window quilts, specifically).

Stained glass is apparently commonly taught in high school art classes in Southern Indiana. Some of these windows were made by high school kids.




This one is a historic window taken from a farmhouse. I like the simplicity of this piece, the fact that the curators felt that simple rectangular panes of faintly colored glass were worthy of display in a museum alongside saturated, rococo glass pictures of birds and flowers.

The first category of quilts in the display was stained glass quilts, which are basically applique based on stained glass window designs, and finished with black binding around the edges to simulate the leading in stained glass windows.



The second category was cathedral window quilts, which I wasn’t familiar with before. They’re not made like traditional quilts, with a backing, batt, quilting through the layers, and binding around the edges. Instead, they’re hand-sewn, square by square, and due to the way they’re assembled, they’re lightweight, with a naturally presentable wrong side that does not need to be covered with a backing. The background is traditionally made from multiple muslin squares that form a frame for bright little scraps of calico. Most of the quilts in the exhibit fell into this category, and I loved the way they looked.

This photo shows a cathedral window square in progress, and explains the process.






Some quilts had squared-off edges, and others left one side of the squares open to form a pointed edge.


More photos of quilts (mostly blurry) can be found in this Flickr set, in addition to buttons, pewter Vikings, and vintage cars, all of which will be blogged later.

In knitting news, I caved into the allure of summer knitting and have cast on for Rusted Root in bright red Cotlin as my new mindless knitting project. The pattern was a gift, a random act of kindness from the fabulous knottygnome, and the yarn was from a swap for some denim yarn with the fabulous chemgrrl. I’m about halfway through the raglan now, and the fabric is looking kind of floppy and uneven, but I’m hoping that a nice wash and block will sort everything out.

Last but not least, do you live in Indiana? Have you voted? The deadline is 6 PM today!